Story by Bridget Gibley, Reporter
Photo courtesy of Facebook
The Jane Hibbard Idema Women’s Studies Center celebrated its 30th birthday on Sept. 22, 2016 with humor, history, and cake. The Center’s story began in 1969, when the Encore program was created for women returning to school. In 1980, the Women’s Studies Academic Program was established, and in 1986, the Women’s Studies Center opened as the first of its kind in West Michigan. It was renamed the Jane Hibbard Idema Women’s Studies Center in 2000. Idema was instrumental in establishing the center and creating resources for women.
The main event of the evening was professor, author, and humorist Dr. Gina Barreca. She is a professor of English and Feminist Theory at the University of Connecticut and has written articles for such publications as: The New York Times, The Huffington Post, and The Hartford Courant.
Barreca shared observations about masculinity and femininity along with stories about her own life. The result was an interesting take on feminism mixed with anecdotes about everything from growing up in Brooklyn — Barreca quipped that if you live in Brooklyn and you aren’t funny, they will kill you — to being a member of one of the first co-ed classes at Dartmouth College.
The professor of Feminist Theory explained, “Feminism is the radical belief that women are human beings,” eliciting loud applause from the audience. There are no membership dues to be in a “club” of feminism; if you believe women are human beings, you’re in.
She also explained her favorite definition of power, originally said by Elizabeth Janeway. Power, she says, “is the ability not to have to please.” Barreca described the first moment she felt she had that power, when she went away to college.
She was away from home and at a newly co-ed school, either one of which alone would have been distressing enough. But when her father dropped her off, he told her if she didn’t like it, she could get on the next bus home. She went to college knowing that she didn’t have to please anybody but herself. She had power, and that changed her.
“I came to college fearing trouble. I left looking for it,” Barreca said.
Barreca ended by appealing to all women. She asked women to stop saying things like “it’s only me,” to stop apologizing for everything, to stop believing that one person cannot make a change.
Her final words echoed both her experience and her hope for the students of Aquinas College: “You have a voice, you have a vote,” she said. “Go make some trouble.”